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Archive for the Profitability Tips Category

Do You Have Past Due Accounts?

If you perform a service or ship a product before you get paid, then you likely have a balance in your Accounts Receivable account. If customers pay when their invoice is due, all is right with the world. If they don’t, then your cash flow slows down and your bank balance is not as high as it should be. Here are some tips, preventive and supportive, to help you keep your accounts receivable current.

Granting Credit

When you deliver your service or product before your client pays you, you are in effect their “bank,” granting them credit. Not everyone deserves to be granted credit. Consider running credit checks, especially if you are billing large amounts of money for your sized business.

You may also want to ask for a retainer or deposit prior to starting work or shipping your products. This will smooth your cash flow and reduce your credit risk.

Offer Multiple Payment Options

When a customer is ready to pay their bill, make it easy on them by offering multiple payment options. Perhaps they will pay faster if you take payment by credit cards. Many people have extra money sitting in their PayPal accounts, so that is another payment option.  Apple Pay and Android Pay are relatively recent options to consider adding.

You may also want to revisit the credit cards you offer: MasterCard, Visa, and American Express are universal, but many places also take Discover and Diners Club. If you are doing international business, consider JCB (Japan), China UnionPay, and RuPay (India).

Collection Process

Once an unpaid invoice has reached its 90-day mark, the chances of collecting it are about 50 percent. This means that you will need to put some aggressive collection processes in place prior to the 90-day mark.

If the invoice is due in 30 days, start at the 35- to 40-day mark with a friendly reminder. At 60 days, your customer needs a strong reminder and perhaps a phone call. At 75 days, they need to know what consequences there will be for not paying. Will you report the customer debt to credit agencies? Will you turn the account over to a collection agency?

At 90 days, it’s probably a good idea to make one final collection effort and then turn it over to a collection agency. It might sound too soon, but the odds of collecting something much older go down significantly as time passes.

At any rate, create your own process, and automate it as much as possible. The main thing is to stay on top of it.

Past Due Accounts

From how you first engage with your clients to the last steps in the collection process, there are many cost-effective techniques to avoid past due accounts and the unpleasantness that goes with them for both parties. If this is an issue in your business, try these ideas above and reach out if you’d like our help.

 

Eight Ways to Increase Your Profits

Increasing your profits might sound like it’s an unattainable dream just out of your reach. But there are a finite number of ways that profits can be increased. Once you understand what they are, you’ll have clarity on how to best reach your goals.

There are two primary ways to increase profits:

  • Raise revenue
  • Lower expenses

That’s not particularly enlightening or instructional, is it? Let’s look at the four ways you can increase revenues and the four ways you can reduce expenses to get clearer on what actions we can take.

Four Ways to Increase Revenue

1. Raise prices

The easiest way to raise revenue is to simply raise prices. However, this is not foolproof and assumes you’ll be able to maintain the volume of sales you’ve achieved in the past.

This method is also limited by market demand, what your customers are willing to pay.

2. Add new customers

Adding new customers is what most entrepreneurs think about when raising revenue. Increasing your marketing or adding new marketing methods is typically the way to add new customers.

Another related option is to work hard to keep the customers you already have. You can also potentially contact the customers you lost and ask them to come back.

3. Introduce new products or services

For some companies, your products and services are changing every year. For others, not so much. To increase revenue, consider adding new products or services that will bring in an additional revenue stream that you didn’t have before.

Even if your products are changing every year, you can consider adding something completely different that your customer base would love.  For example, a hair salon could add a nail desk, a clothing store could add handbags or shoes, a grocery store could add a coffee bar, a restaurant could add catering, a landscaper could add hardscaping, and so on.

4. Acquisition

The final way a business can increase revenue is to acquire another business in a merger or acquisition.

Four Ways to Reduce Expenses

1. Negotiate for a better deal with vendors

If you’ve been working with a vendor for a while, you may be able to re-negotiate your contract with them. This is especially common with telecom companies. Call you phone provider and ask them for the latest deal. They always favor new customers over long term customers, but they don’t want to lose customers either. Just calling them usually yields a better price than what you are paying now.

2. Change vendors

If a vendor has gotten too expensive, it might be time to look for a new vendor. Health care insurance seems to be in this category. Often, changing providers will lower your costs.

3. Cut headcount

If there is not enough work to support your employees or not enough cash flow to pay them, then it might be time for a layoff or restructuring. You might also consider outsourcing a function that you previously did in-house.

4. Cut the expense or reduce services

It might be your business no longer needs to spend money on an expense. Perhaps this expense has been automated. In this case, it’s an easy decision to cut the expense out entirely.

Those are the eight ways to increase profits. Which one makes the most sense in your business? Create a plan around these eight ideas to boost your profit in 2017, and let us know if we can help.

Start the New Year with a 2017 Profit Plan

Are you ready for 2017 to be even better than 2016?  If so, take a few minutes to reflect on the questions below and take action to set your 2017 profit plan.

Question 1:  What were the three best business things about 2016?

No need to re-invent the wheel.  If you knocked it out of the park in 2016, can you wash, rinse and repeat these tasks in 2017?

If you’re having trouble thinking of three things, here are some hints:

  • What apps saved you time and money?
  • Did you make some good hires?
  • Did you let go of a bad hire or two?
  • Was there a marketing campaign that really worked?
  • Were there any events you went to that generated great ideas?
  • Did you add or remove products and/or services?
  • Did you buy new equipment or open a new location?

Summarize the three best things that happened in your business for 2016 and think about how you can repeat them to enhance your 2017.

Question 2:  What were the three worst business things about 2016?

While we don’t want to dwell too much on our failures, we do want to learn from them.  Think about the three things that are causing you to lose time, money or gain stress, and decide if you can make changes for 2017.

Question 3:  What vision do you have for your business in 2017?

At the end of 2017, what has to have happened in order for you to have a successful year?   Think in terms of metrics as well as intangibles, such as peace of mind and happiness.

Once you know your destination, the fun is in creating a roadmap to get you there.

Your 2017 Profit Plan

If your vision includes financial goals, then creating a profit plan is one way to measure your progress throughout 2017.  Start by deciding how much profit you want to make in 2017.  From there, you can compute your revenue goal and make a plan.  Then you can add expenses to complete the budget.  Here’s an example:

Let’s say you want to make $50,000 in profit for 2017.  You can do that in a number of ways:

  1. Generate $500,000 in revenue and $450,000 in expenses.
  2. Generate $2 million in revenue and $1,950,000 in expenses.
  3. Generate $150,000 in revenue and $100,000 in expenses.
  4. And so forth.

From your profit number, you can create a revenue plan.  A revenue should include how many items you need to sell.  Like this:

  No. of units Price Revenue
Widget A 3,000 $200 $600,000
Part B 100 $2,000 $200,000
Service C 700 $1,000 $700,000
Total     $1,500,000

Once you have your revenue plan, you can fill in your estimated expenses.

You might be thinking that this sure sounds a lot like making a budget.  And it is.  But it’s far more fun to work on something called a profit plan than it is a budget.  And if you need us to do the number-crunching part, please feel free to reach out any time.

Here’s to a very happy and prosperous 2017.

5 Metrics to Gauge Your Business Performance

Sometimes, the most telling numbers in your business are not necessarily on the monthly reports. Although the foundation of your finances revolves around the balance sheet and income statement, there are a few numbers that, when known and tracked, can make a huge impact on your business decision-making. Here are five:

1. Revenue per employee.

Even if you are a solo business owner, revenue per employee can be an interesting number. It’s easy to compute: take total revenue for the year and divide by the number of employees you had during the year. You may need to average the number in case you had turnover or adjust it for part-time employees.

Whether your number is good or bad depends on the industry you’re in as well as a host of other factors. Compare it to prior years; is the number increasing (good) or decreasing (not so good)? If it’s decreasing you might want to investigate why. It could be you have many new employees who need training so that your productivity has slipped. It could also be that revenue has declined.

2. Customer acquisition cost.

If you’ve ever watched Shark Tank®, you know that CAC is one of the most important numbers for investors. This is how much it costs you in marketing and selling costs to acquire a new client. Factors such as annual revenue, or even lifetime value of a client will affect how low or high you can allow this number to go.

3. Cash burn rate.

How fast do you go through cash? The cash burn rate calculates this for you. Compute the difference between your starting and ending cash balances and divide that number by the number of months it covers. The result is a monthly value. This is especially important for startups that have not shown a profit yet so they can figure out how much cash they need to borrow or raise to fund their venture.

4. Revenue per client.

Revenue per client is a good measure to compare from year to year. Are clients spending more or less with you, on average, than last year?

5. Customer retention.

If you are curious as to how many customers return year after year, you can compute your client retention percentage. Make a list of all the customers who paid you money last year. Then create a list of customers who have paid you this year. (You’ll need to two full years to be accurate). Merge the two lists. Count how many customers you had in the first year. Then count the customers who paid you money in both years. The formula is:

Number of customer who paid you in both years / Number of customers in the first or prior year * 100 = Customer retention rate as a percentage

New customers don’t count in this formula. You’ll be able to see what percentage of customers came back in a year. You can also modify this formula for any length of time you wish to measure.

Try any of these five metrics so you’ll gain richer financial information about your business’s performance. And as always, if we can help, be sure to reach out.

Your Daily Numbers

Some numbers need reviewing on a daily basis, and one example of this is cash.  When cash is coming in from a number of places, it’s great to have a daily summary of what was collected.

It’s also great to make sure all the collections hit your bank account so you can feel confident that no errors were made along the way.  A daily cash reconciliation report will serve both needs very well.

A daily cash report will vary depending on the type of business you have, but it will look like a combination of a bank reconciliation and a sales report wrapped into one.

If you are managing your cash closely from day to day, then this report will help you stay sane.  You’ll need two very brief spreadsheets to get started.  The first one below is your daily sales from all sources.  Your accounting system may be able to generate this.

Today’s Sales
Cash $300.00
Checks $600.00
Total Bank Deposit $900.00
Mastercard Visa $400.00
American Express $200.00
Total Credit Card Due $600.00
PayPal $100.00

If your accounting system is up to date, all you’ll need to do is pull the cash balance and adjust for today’s activity.  The following day, you can double check your accuracy and adjust accordingly using the last two rows.

Daily Cash Report
Book Cash Balance $5,000.00
Deposit from Today’s Sales $900.00
Merchant Deposit $600.00
Less Checks Written Today ($1,200.00)
$5,300.00
Expected Bank Balance Tomorrow $8,300.00
Actual Bank Balance $8,300.00
Explain any differences

If your accounting system is not updated in real time, you’ll need to start with the bank balance and correct it for uncleared transactions as well as list today’s activity.

Daily Cash Report
Bank Balance $5,000.00
Deposit from Today’s Sales $900.00
Merchant Deposit $600.00
Less Checks Written Today ($1,200.00)
$5,300.00
Checks Still Outstanding ($3,000.00)
Deposit from A/R Paid $5,000.00
Expected Bank Balance Tomorrow $8,300.00

 

Using these formats, you can easily extend them to cover the entire week.  This way, you’ll know what your cash balance will be from day to day.

If you see the value of this report for your business and would like help creating it, please reach out.

Influencing Your Word-of-Mouth Results

Just about every business relies on “word-of-mouth” marketing to get the vast majority of its clients. If this is true for your business, then it just makes sense to figure out how to boost your referrals from all sources. Referrals are almost always easier to sell and they keep your marketing costs low. But how can you do that?

The first step is to make sure that you know who your best current referral sources are. If you’re not already asking the question to new clients “How did you find out about us?” then I’d recommend you implement that right away.

If you do know the answer to that question for each customer, then you can make a list of your referral sources. Take a look at the list, and see what these referral sources have in common. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Are they all customers?
  • Do they all have a profession in common? For example, are they all lawyers, massage therapists, plumbers, or pediatricians?
  • Have you properly thanked each of these individuals? If not, you can send out a thank you card or take them to lunch with no other agenda.

The last question to ask yourself is “where can you find more of the same type of people that are referring you?” If you discovered that you get a lot of business from dog groomers, then you may want to consider visiting every grooming salon in your zip code. You may also want to present a speech to a dog groomers Meetup group that you find.

You really can be proactive about your referrals so that business comes to you more easily. Try these tips to boost your referral sources in your business.


Five Ways to Streamline Data Entry

Are you manually entering data into your accounting system? If so, there may be a way to enter that data that’s faster, cheaper, and better. Data entry automation has come a long way. Here are five common ways to automate data entry so that it no longer has to be manually entered.

1.  Bank feeds or online banking

    If you’re still entering your bank transactions, the good news is you have an opportunity to save a significant amount of time and money on your accounting. Almost all banks and many credit unions provide interfaces with your accounting system so that checking account, savings account, and credit card transactions can be automatically entered directly into your accounting system. There are two ways to do this:

      a. The older way is through online banking which can be started by working with both your accounting system and the bank. The fee is usually $25 per month, with additional fees for bill pay.

      b. The brand new, more modern and completely free way is through bank feeds, which are available when you move to a cloud accounting system such as QuickBooks Online or Xero. Bank feeds are not available in desktop accounting systems.

2.  A smart scanner

    If a lot of paper flows across your desk, you can scan it in using a smart scanner that can parse the document and enter it straight into your accounting system. You will usually have a chance to edit and accept the data, which is far better than entering it from scratch.

3.  Import and export functions

    If you need to get data from one place to another, such as from a point of sale system to an accounting system, then using the export and import features of the software may be the most efficient method. There are also software apps that help you scrub the data and get it ready for the receiving system.

    If you ever convert from an old accounting system to a new accounting system, this method will come in handy to get you historical data moved.

4.  Interfaces and programmers

    If you have a high volume of transactions that need to move from one place to another on an ongoing basis, it may make the most sense to employ programmers who can build an interface. Alternately, some systems can talk to each other already; they just need to be plugged into each other correctly.

5.  Smartphones, tablets, and field service hardware and software

    If your sale occurs out in the field, don’t wait to get the data into your system when you get back to the office. You may be able to complete the sale right out in the field, so that when you get back to the office, you can call it a day instead of keying in the day’s work.

    Mobile accounting apps are where to look for this form of data entry automation.

No more manual data entry

In 2015, consider taking on the goal of no more manual data entry. If we can help, let us know.


How Understanding Assets vs. Expenses Can Make You Rich

Assets and expenses both have a “debit” balance on the financial statements, but that’s where their similarities end. Spending on one can make you rich and spending too much on the other can leave you broke.

An expense is money you may need to spend, but after a year, there is nothing lasting to show for it. An asset is a tangible resource that is still worth something after a year or more and that belongs to you or your business. The best assets grow in value over time, but some lose their value too. Real estate typically goes up in value, while a car loses value, or depreciates heavily, in its first few years.

The best example of an asset versus an expense is spending on a mortgage versus rent. When you pay a mortgage, you own more of the property than you did last month. One day, you can sell your ownership in the property and get cash or another asset in trade. When you pay rent, there’s nothing left at the end of the month. There’s no accumulated value.

Generally speaking, spending on an asset builds or at least better preserves your wealth. Spending on an expense drains your worth because you don’t own anything at the end.

The path to building your wealth is to spend on assets when you have a choice and minimize expenses when you can.

In the book “The Millionaire Next Door,” one of the top examples to build wealth is to avoid replacing your car as long as you dare. It used to be a habit for some families to replace their car every two years. With today’s reliable models, you can go between five to ten years without having to replace your car. Although a car lasts more than a year and is considered an asset, it still loses value every year.

Investing in assets and reducing expenses will build your business’s net worth and increase profits. Look for ways you can apply this to your business and watch your money grow. As always, reach out if you’d like to know more.

Is Your Business Using the Right Accounting System?

Have you ever tried on a shirt or jeans and found they didn’t fit at all?  They looked great on the hangar, but that was the end of it.  Accounting systems come in all sizes, shapes, and colors just like clothing; and just like clothing, some accounting systems fit your business better than others.  It’s not that easy to spot in a mirror when an accounting system does not fit a business, but there are other signs that will give it away.  Here are five of them:

Numerous Workarounds

A workaround happens when your current system cannot do all the things you need it to do.  A workaround can take the form of a spreadsheet, a report, a program, or a database that is created with extra time spent every month so you can get the information out of your system and manipulate it the way you need it to run your business.

Since no accounting system is a perfect fit for any one business, it’s normal to have some workarounds in place to meet your unique business needs.  If you have too many, it might signal that you’ve outgrown your current system and need to find an accounting system that provides you with more functionality.

Downtime or Wasted Time

If you are unable to access your system when you need to do your job, then you are experiencing downtime in one form or another.  You may be waiting for a file to be fixed, or the system may actually be down.  If your system runs slowly, then that’s another form of downtime that wastes your time.  If you have to take time to make backups and perform restorations, this type of activity does not add value to running your business.   When you have too many of these time-wasters, it could be time to look for a better way.

Old Technology

If your accounting system is more than about three years old and you’ve chosen not to update it, then you may be missing out on newer time-saving features that could help you reduce the amount of time you spend doing your accounting.  If your accounting system is more than six or seven years old, then you are definitely losing productivity.  It’s time to bite the bullet and learn a new system so you can experience better profit margins in your business.

Limited Users or Security

If your current accounting system does not provide you with enough users, then you might have more expensive employees doing lower level jobs, which is costing you more in payroll expenses.

You may also need certain user permissions to be more granular than they are in your current system as you grant access to certain parts of the system to different users.   If you’re on QuickBooks, that’s a really easy fix, so please talk to us about this.

We find that user access is a hot button with a lot of business owners, so if it’s true for you, please reach out and let’s have a conversation about this.

Limited Physical Access

If your accounting system is located on a private PC or server in your business, this limits access to your files.  If you have more than one business location, you like to work from home, or your employees work from their homes occasionally, then you may want to look for a system that accommodates “anywhere, anytime” accounting.  This is a pretty easy fix too, as this requirement is now quite common with business owners today.

The same can be said for mobile access.  New apps enable many accounting features to be completed from your mobile phone, such as checking bank balances, approving a bill, and taking a picture of a receipt and uploading it, to name a few.  If you want to do you accounting from your mobile phone, ask us about mobile apps that we can link to your system to enable this functionality.

Boosting Your Accounting Productivity

We might be a little biased, but accounting has gotten to be a lot more fun in the last few years with advancements in technology.  If you see any of the signs listed above, it might be worth a conversation to see if your accounting system is the best fit for your business.   Just reach out anytime.

Optimize Your Revenue Mix for More Profits in 2014

Many small business owners focus on generating more revenue every year, and that’s a great objective.  But not all revenue is created equally.  If you sell more than one product or service in your business, then you can benefit from looking at your revenue mix.

Although it’s fun to watch our revenues grow, it’s the profit number that really matters.  If your expenses grow faster than your profits, then you have a lot of activity going on, but you don’t get to keep as much of what you make, which is what really matters.

An insightful exercise to try is to take a look at your revenue mix.  Then you can ask “what if?” to optimize your profits.

Your Revenue Mix

Let’s say you offer three different services: Services X, Y, and Z. Your revenue pie looks like this:

X:  $1.4 million or 70% of the total

Y:  $0.3 million or 15% of the total

Z:  $0.3 million or 15% of the total

Total:  $2.0 million

In this example, Service X is clearly the service making you the most revenue in your business.  But is it making you the most profits?

The profit you receive from each of these service lines is as follows:

X:  $160K

Y: $20K loss

Z:  $60K

Total:  $200K

While Service X is generating the most profit volume for your business, it’s actually Service Z that’s the most profitable.  Earning $160K on $1.4 million yields 11.4% return on Service X, but earning $60K on $300K yields nearly double the return at 20%.  Service Z generates the most return.   And if possible, Service Y may need to be discontinued or turned around.

Optimizing Profits

Your strategy for a more optimum revenue mix might be to sell as much of Service Z as possible, while eliminating or fixing the problem around Service Y.

It’s fun to experiment with different revenue mixes.  And of course, there are many more variables besides profit, such as:

  • Which service do you prefer to work on?
  • Are you able to sell more of the most profitable service or are there marketing limitations?
  • Is one service a loss leader for the others?
  • Are you able to adjust price on the lower margin services to increase your profits?

There are many more questions to ask and strategies to consider to make you more money, which is why we love our job!

A New Year, A New Mix

We hope you’ll spend some time analyzing your revenue mix and having fun asking yourself “what if?”   If we can help you expedite the process or add our perspective, please reach out anytime.

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